The National Iranian American Council organized a letter calling for measures to deescalate the impasse between the U.S. and Iran. I was pleased to be one of the signatories, and I encourage everyone to read it in full. Here are a few excerpts that deserve special emphasis right now. The first point calls for suspending sanctions that were reimposed after the decision to renege on the JCPOA:
The U.S. should suspend sanctions imposed after its withdrawal from the nuclear accord with Iran in May 2018 to provide space for de-escalation and assurance that it is serious about pursuing and adhering to a negotiated solution.
Suspending sanctions would offer a ceasefire in the economic war being waged against Iran. That would give the Iranian government an opening to consider negotiations, and it would relieve some of the pressure on the Iranian people. It would be a sign that the U.S. wanted to reach an acceptable compromise and that sanctions are not simply being used to suffocate the entire country. It would mean giving up on “maximum pressure” and it would require acknowledging that continually adding new sanctions has contributed to the current crisis.
Another proposal is a prisoner swap:
Iran has unjustly imprisoned at least five American citizens and dual nationals. According to publicized reports, at least a dozen Iranians are in custody in the U.S. on sanctions violation charges. Iran has publicly and privately offered to arrange a swap of American and Iranian prisoners held in each country’s jails. The Trump administration should pursue this overture and view it as the low-hanging fruit for negotiations that can build confidence for broader diplomacy.
A prisoner swap would not only lay a foundation for future negotiations, but it would mean that the Americans wrongfully detained in Iran are released and are able to rejoin their families and return to their lives. Even if it didn’t lead to anything else, it would bring Xiyue Wang, the Namazis, and Reza Shahini home, and if he is still alive it would allow Robert Levinson to come home as well. That would be a far better use of the administration’s time and resources than imposing ridiculous sanctions on Iran’s foreign minister.
There need to be regular, reliable channels of communication that our governments can use to speak directly to one another:
The U.S. and Iran should reestablish a permanent and direct communication channel with Iran to de-escalate crises, such as the downing of the U.S. drone and the oil tanker attacks in the Gulf of Oman. Absent a dedicated channel for deconfliction and deescalation, as existed under the previous administration, the chances of disaster remain far too high.
The U.S. should not be relying on third-party intermediaries to carry messages back and forth between Washington and Tehran. The danger of misunderstanding and miscalculation is unacceptably high. The best way to avoid incidents between U.S. and Iranian forces and to keep accidents from spiraling out of control is to have these channels and to keep them open.
There are more proposals included in the letter, and I endorse all of them, but these are the things that I think the administration could do fairly quickly and easily.